May 2016 Mini-Reviews: The Crown, Hamilton: The Revolution & More!

May 26, 2016 / 6 Comments / Mini-Reviews

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Hi guys! I’m all over the map with my May 2016 mini-reviews, from audiobooks to new releases to graphic novels. Read on to find out my thoughts on The Crown by Kiera Cass, Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples!


May 2016 Mini-Reviews: The Crown, Hamilton: The Revolution & More!The Crown

Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: May 3rd 2016
Format: Paperback
My rating:
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Kiera Cass’s #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series has captured the hearts of readers from its very first page. Now the end of the journey is here. Prepare to be swept off your feet by The Crown—the eagerly awaited, wonderfully romantic fifth and final book in the Selection series.
In The Heir, a new era dawned in the world of The Selection. Twenty years have passed since America Singer and Prince Maxon fell in love, and their daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own.
Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.

No spoilers. Hoo boy. This was easily the fastest read of the whole Selection series, and similar book crack that I couldn’t put down. That said, this whole book felt rushed, from the feelings to the political developments. I really could have used more time to see the characters interact. I wish there had been more development of characters in this book, and more of a synopsis of who was who at the beginning. It was hard to remember all of the boys, Eadlyn’s friends and allies, and more without re-reading The Heir, which I didn’t do.

The other thing is that in the first trilogy, we got a whole book seeing America and the other girls getting prepared for the throne. I wish we’d seen similar challenges that the boys in Eadlyn’s Selection had to face, because it felt downright easy for them. They didn’t have to do any of the political preparation that America did – that was all left to Eadlyn and her (female) advisers. That frustrated me hugely and made me wonder if that was just an oversight on Cass’ part? Definitely giving her the benefit of the doubt since I don’t really want to wade into the gender dynamics of this.

I did appreciate Cass not going the traditional route in quite a few instances in this book and series with the relationships, especially since Eadlyn’s circumstances are so different from America and Maxon’s. But again, more character development was not only wished for but needed.

Overall, a fun, fast read that deserved a lot more – and definitely a second epilogue. But maybe that will come, since this series never seems to end in the hearts of its readers.


May 2016 Mini-Reviews: The Crown, Hamilton: The Revolution & More!Hamilton

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: April 12th 2016
Format: Audiobook
My rating:
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Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country's origins for a diverse new generation.
HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages--"since before this was even a show," according to Miranda--traces its development from an improbable performance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.
Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sondheim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by President Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don't throw away their shot.

A wonderful overview of the people and characters of Hamilton the Musical. Great reading for anyone looking for an overview of how to create a musical and something lasting and world-changing. I loved the idea that what Hamilton was fighting so hard for and what Lin-Manuel Miranda and his team were doing were parallel goals. I also loved learning about all of the people involved, especially music director Thomas Lacamoire and Asian-American actress and lead Philippa Soo.

Mariska Hargitay (of Law & Order: SVU) does a great narration, but I wish Lin had done a bit more than just the annotations, which are difficult to follow without the PDF of his annotations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I have the PDF, but I think I would have preferred not to have the annotations narrated. That said, no doubt that the book itself, as an audiobook, really works. Well worth listening to, and I may have to get the physical book so I can see the beautiful printing!


May 2016 Mini-Reviews: The Crown, Hamilton: The Revolution & More!An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: April 28th 2015
Format: Hardcover
My rating:
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A “deft, polished debut”  (Publishers Weekly, starred review), Sabaa Tahir‘s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.   Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.   It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.   But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.   There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

I originally read half this book last year and couldn’t get through. I almost DNF’d it because I found the pace extremely slow and the characters frustrating. Thank goodness for my book club and my #OTSPsecretsister forcing me to get my act together, because I did enjoy the ending a lot.

For me, An Ember in the Ashes was a book that was mostly based in plot and romance tropes, with strong world-building. The world-building was indeed what saved me because I liked the idea of an academy for soldiers, the magic masks and more. The action was plodding at points, but picked up near the end. It’s very descriptive.

I also had trouble with a lot of the characters, especially the two protagonists, who felt like stock characters to me. Laia was the weak but beautiful damsel in distress who earned her strength as she went. Elias was the frustrated soldier who had always followed rules his entire life, but was questioning them. When they meet, it was a bit too farfetched and insta-lovey for my liking. That said, I do feel like the love rectangle (nope, not just a triangle) that was forming throughout the book was at least as believable as the love between the main characters.

For me, the most interesting character by far was the Villain – but she only revealed herself to be three dimensional in the last 100 pages of the book. Still, quite thrilling at the end. I’m curious to see what will happen with this story as it continues…but unsure if I’m curious enough to keep going with the series.


May 2016 Mini-Reviews: The Crown, Hamilton: The Revolution & More!Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: April 1st 2014
Format: Audiobook
My rating:
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This Printz Honor Book is a “tender, honest exploration of identity” (Publishers Weekly) that distills lyrical truths about family and friendship.
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

This one was a library and book club read for me, and one that I think deserves more than a mini-review, but…sometimes you just don’t have a lot to say about a book this beautiful. Aristotle and Dante is a complex character study of two boys who are trying to reconcile their identities and their love for one another within society’s rules in the early 1990s. It’s a book about family and growing up poor and Mexican. It’s about fiercely protecting the people we love, about the choices that we make implicitly when an emergency happens. And it’s about self-hatred and overcoming that to find something real in the universe. Beautiful, honest, poignant, and raw, Aristotle and Dante hit me really hard. It’s a book that is mostly dialogue, so it worked really well for me since I audiobooked it (with Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda playing both roles – he’s amazing!). With distinct, pitch-perfect voices for Ari and Dante, and an understanding of how mundane but beautiful little things can be, I honestly can’t really pinpoint things that are right or wrong with this book…just know that it’s one you should pick up and experience and enjoy. A worthwhile and satisfying read.


May 2016 Mini-Reviews: The Crown, Hamilton: The Revolution & More!Saga, Volume 1

Author: Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication date: October 23rd 2012
My rating:
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When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.
From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.
Collects Saga issues #1-6.

I’m not normally a graphic novel reader – I often leave that to my husband, who’s obsessed, but even I couldn’t escape hearing all the praise for Saga. I finally picked it up (again-ish, I read the first issue when it came out) when I needed a break from traditional publishing, and it definitely keeps you from book slumping! Fast-paced and beautifully illustrated, I’ve heard Saga described as a space opera Romeo & Juliet, and that’s exactly what it is – perhaps with more fantastical creatures and side stories than I thought (maybe The Fifth Element meets Romeo and Juliet is a good comparison?). Saga is the story of star-crossed lovers and opposing world soldiers Alana and Marko, who fell in love after meeting while Alana was on assignment and Marko was a prisoner. The first couple scenes depict them welcoming a new baby – yes, a hybrid of their two species – into the universe and subsequently being brutally chased/attacked on both sides. What really got me about this book was not so much Marko and Alana and their baby (who are definitely cute), but the side plotlines of bounty hunters, ghosts, and other creatures that inhabit this story. The dialogue is sassy and spare, and there’s a lot thrown into each issue, but that’s what makes it even more impressive – that so much world building could be created in such a short time. A cute and unusual story with great characters and strong character design. I’m not at “love” like everyone else, but as a traditional novel reader, I can say this is a really good graphic novel for readers of all kinds of stories. I will definitely be picking up the next volume.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Hit up the comments and let me know – happy to talk about audiobooks vs. print as well!

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6 responses to “May 2016 Mini-Reviews: The Crown, Hamilton: The Revolution & More!

  1. I loooove Ari And Dante! SUCH A BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN BOOK. <3 And so highly quotable. Ahhhh!!! I also didn't really love An Ember in the Ashes. :/ Only I actually felt the world building was very poor, ahha, and it just kept using violence as a shock factor instead of actually advancing the plot. Which I'm not much a fan of. I don't think I'll be trying the next book. Eeep.
    And this reminds me I need to get onwards and read the rest of the Selection books!!

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

  2. If I had a penny for every time I say I’m on my way to reading Saga I would have a lot of money. And anything that can be compared to The Fifth Element is tops in my books. Even more if you don’t usually like graphic novels but you liked this, because I devoured GNs constantly when I was in high school. Are you planning to read the rest of the series?

  3. I’ve been curious about the Hamilton book as an audiobook. I think I’m going to go ahead and buy it in print. Now I have to go look under the couch and put all my loose change together!

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